The Obsidian Conspiracy
posted on 6/2010 By:
Although I may be in the minority, I think jinxes and curses are a bunch of nonsense, but damn if it didn't seem like Nevermore was just doomed to fail for a while when taking into account their accidents, health issues, cancelled tours, and a subsequent short break that resulted in solo albums from Jeff Loomis and Warrel Dane. Truth be told, if This Godless Endeavor turned out to be their swan song they could have taken a great deal of pride in knowing they were responsible for some of the most essential works of metal for over a decade, so it was a pleasant surprise when last year they announced plans for a new album entitled The Obsidian Conspiracy. After pushing their dramatic essence to the breaking point with the beast that was Godless, it was a hard guess trying to peg the direction the band would go in order to both progress and expand upon an already abundant palette, and as it turns out, they’ve ended up with their most accessible collections of tunes to come along since Dead Heart, In A Dead World.
After absorbing it for a while, this new disc is an almost exact mash-up of Dead Heart, and the black sheep in their catalogue, Enemies Of Reality, along with many elements of both Loomis and Dane’s solo albums. The call to rise during “Your Poison Throne” is like nothing they’ve done before, but the message is full of classic angst and bitterness which seems to be quite apt in regard to what’s going on in our society right now, and even though Nevermore has always been a platform for Warrel’s prose, more than ever before he is the focal point--both lyrically and musically. It’s very clear that while Loomis is on fire and sounds like a million bucks, the majority of the weight lies directly on Dane’s shoulders here, and accordingly, the man in the snakeskin cowboy hat makes the most of the room he’s been generously given. The tired complaint of the vocals not matching the music still applies to some degree, but there seems to have been a greater effort to create a more conjoined method of songcraft, such as with the dynamically bristling “And The Maiden Spoke”.
With tracks like “Emptiness Unobstructed”, the burly “Moonrise (Through Mirrors Of Death)”, “The Blue Marble And The New Soul”, and wailing lead-off skull splitter “The Termination Proclamation”, the fresh accessibility comes into play with huge choruses, relatable lyrical themes, and those same deeply emotional exchanges that sometimes border on flat-out melodrama. “Without Morals” is one of the only missteps, driven by rather nondescript riffs and a less than inspiring vocal pattern throughout, even Jeff’s solo comes across as too relaxed and nonchalant. But in direct contrast, the two following cuts “The Day You Built The Wall”, and “She Comes In Colors” are among the most unusual and abstract songs of the disc, with lyrics like ‘smash yourself and kill your friends, and build your wall of separation’ being delivered by a seething Dane in a style that recalls the spirit of “All Play Dead”. Warrel tests his range of melody with the pre-choruses of “Emptiness Unobstructed” and the elastic structure of “She Comes In Colors”, but he more than holds his own against the riff assault Loomis unleashes during the rampaging closing title track, the first 20 seconds of which features an absolutely smoking riff/solo interplay that literally gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it along with all the rest of you on their YouTube sampler.
Admittedly, the first time I listened to this album I had no idea just what they were trying to accomplish when it was over, because all the elements that make for an immediately impacting Nevermore album were in short supply. There is a straightforward and nonviolent feel to even their angriest material, and overall this is the least outwardly aggressive they’ve been since their awkward-but-promising debut from ‘95. Their creative fires are still burning quite hot though, and beneath it all bassist Jim Sheppard and Van Williams provide a rigid and sometimes surprisingly vibrant skeleton for all this prime beef to hang off of, especially with Williams going to town during “And The Maiden Spoke”, and Jim throwing in some deft swells during “She Comes In Colors”.
There is no doubt as to whether or not Nevermore can still produce sensational, relevant music, but the toned-down vibe of The Obsidian Conspiracy is one of both patience and contemplation--this takes a little while to fully sink in compared to their past work due to their more tolerable and blunt execution. The fine melodic details bring new life to their tried-and-true artistry, and they haven’t strayed far from their foundation in the slightest, yet you can’t help but miss the almost guaranteed slow, malicious crusher of a tune like “The River Dragon Has Come”, or the still-untouchable frenzy of the title track from The Politics Of Ecstasy. Still, it is nice to hear some new Nevermore, and for fans of their smoothest material this will be a pleasure to behold, but those who prefer the harsher side of this immensely talented Seattle outfit will still be keeping their older CDs within reach.
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Enemies of Reality (Remixed)
This Godless Endeavor
Enemies of Reality